Tag Archives: canoeing

Kingston2Ottawa – a weekend in the wacky world of Marathon Canoe…

The Kingston2Ottawa  race is a 200 km marathon race for canoes/kayaks/SUP’s. It runs up the Rideau Canal system (a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest lock system in the world) from Kingston to Ottawa and has 22 portages spread over 200 km of river. It has to be completed in 36 hours and the winners this year did it in 23 hours. It is CRAZY!

We found ourselves in the midst of this world in late July because we volunteered to be pit crew for Grandpa Bob. Well, really Grandpa offered to pay Hunter to be his pit crew and Hunter needed someone to drive him, hence along came the rest of the family.

Shocker #1 was that the race started at 6am on Saturday morning… nothing like starting the day with the sun. As pit crew that meant some of us (Lee, the morning person) got up at 4:30 to get things organized and get the racers to the start line on time.This was actually a bit of a family affair with one team being Grandpa Bob (75) and his paddling partner Gwen, and another team being Uncle Mike and Aunt Fiona from Saskatchewan. Mike and Fiona were entered in the expert class while Bob and Gwen opted for the Adventurer class, which meant that their support team could run the portages for them. Turns out this was a great deal for Bob and Gwen!

It took us a lock or two to really get things figured out. The times out of the first section were so fast that they had already started the portage just as we got to the lock – not really earning our money there…By the third lock we had figured things out in terms of both the portages and the food, which had things flowing like a formula one pit crew!

We all wore London Canoe Club shirts to make it easy to find us and see us from the water. This isn’t like a running race where there is a super clear trail that you are following – often you are heading in a general direction along a lake trying to figure out where the lock actually is. The jumping up and down blue spots helped fine tune the direction.

There was a pretty broad variety of locks amongst the 22 and it was interesting to check out the different styles and stages. Some have been updated since they were originally installed and others are exactly the same – being opened and closed with chains, gears and levers.

Everyone we talked to said the hardest part of the race was crossing Big Rideau Lake due to the boat traffic. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the cruising traffic was high – lots of criss cross waves and boats that really didn’t give way to the racing canoes and kayaks. Challenge #2 was finding the channel markers in the dark – turns out they don’t reflect much and are only really present in the tighter channels vs larger open water.

It was an impressive feat – watching people paddle non-stop for 27 hours…although staying awake and being pit crew for the same amount of time did feel equally exhausting!

Mike and Fiona handily won the Expert class in 23 hours (2 hours ahead of the 2nd place boat) and Bob and Gwen won the Adventure class in 27 hours (over an hour ahead of the 2nd place boat).

For those that are intrigued but not committed, there is a 100km race that starts in Smiths Falls. I also understand that there will be a 50km version next year so maybe check that out… We will be sticking with our whitewater playing until they throw some waves in to make the course more interesting.

 

 

 

In search of Florida Wildlife…

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We LOVE canoeing on central Florida rivers – they are usually warm due to being sourced from a spring and chock full of a wide assortment of wildlife. We’ve had 2 fun days of paddling so far, with more to come in January when the manatees are back in full force.

Our first paddle was up near Ocala in the Silver Springs area. Grandpa Bob had a canoe race so we came along in hopes that we would get the see the elusive monkeys. On our last trip here we found plenty of turtles and alligators but only one monkey – even though we came armed with a full bag of marshmallows, which is what they seem to love.

The weather was fairly grey, misty and cool for our paddle so we had to amuse ourselves with bird spotting as it just wasn’t warm enough for the cold blooded animals to get out and sun themselves. By the end of our paddle we found a few turtles but definitely slim pickings! We also struck out on the monkey sightings and came home with a full bag of marshmallows!

The next day we headed up to the Weeki Wachi River in search of some early season Manatees. With the weather having been so warm in November we weren’t hopeful but had to go and look anyways! We came across a mom and baby fairly early on our paddle up the river (grey blobs in the photos) and were excited that there might be more along the way. Lots of looking but no luck as we headed up to our favourite swimming hole…

About 2/3 of the way up the river there is a really deep hole on a right corner bend. Historically we have jumped off the small wooden pad on river right but were excited to discover that someone had created a whole new level of jumping by putting wooden boards on the tall tree directly across the river. The water was relatively warm and it was a great spot to stop and play!

Hunter started a “tradition” of snorkelling his way back down the river from the turn around point when we were here two years ago. He is a tradition oriented kid so there was no real discussion as to whether or not he was doing it again – it was just a given. Tim was a nice Dad and accompanied him from the jumping hole to the rope swing, which is just before you get back into populated water. I was left to paddle the canoe down, which was actually quite peaceful.

The boys spotted a small turtle on the banks as they were swimming down so stopped to check it out. Tim, being a country boy at heart, picked him up to check him out. Hunter worked up his bravery to hold the turtle himself and thought it was so cool that he chased after him after we let him go and picked him up again all by himself, wiggles and all!

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Fewer birds on this river and not many turtles or other animals out either. We were lucky to find another couple of manatees near the take out so that left us in high spirits and looking forward to coming back in January.

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Roadschooling through the Yukon

midnight with a Yukon River backdrop

midnight with a Yukon River backdrop

The Yukon tourism tagline is “Larger than Life” and it certainly lives up to that. While  not very populous in terms of humans, it is full of breath taking scenery, abundant wildlife and living stories of the Klondike Gold Rush. We firmly believe that coming to the Yukon (summer or winter) is a must do for all Canadians! With summer just around the corner we thought we’d start to plant some seeds out there…

We recommend the following adventures to make the most of any visit:

Drive the Alaska Highway:

The Alaska Highway is a historic monument in itself. Also referred to as the Alcan Highway, it was completed in 1942 to create a connection between Alaska and mainland USA for World War II, and is a partnership between the Canadian and US governments. Be sure to pick up the Milepost Guide Book which gives you mile by mile information for the entire highway.

Be sure to stop at the Liard HotSprings in Northern B.C. (between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake) for a soak or two in a natural hot spring. You can camp or stay at the lodge across the road.

There are plenty of provincial/territorial campgrounds along the Alaska Highway and you don’t have to worry about them being full other than on long weekends.

Skagway, Alaska – start at the beginning:

Recognizing the critical role that the Gold Rush played in Yukon’s history, it is best to take a side trip to Skagway, Alaska as this is where most miners started their Yukon adventure. Skagway is a historic town that is quiet 8 months of the year and plumb full 4 months of the year thanks to the cruise ships that show up every day.

Be sure to check out both the Skagway Museum & Klondike Gold Rush National Park centre to get yourself oriented to the region. They are both open year round.

There are a number of hiking options in the area, from and hour or so all the way up to the multi-day Chilkoot Trail (a national historic site). Another fun activity is to ride the historic White Pass & Yukon Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Carcross:

In order to get to and from Skagway, Alaska you have to pass through Carcross. Be sure to take an hour (or a day) to explore the area. It is located on the shores of Bennett Lake and has a nice beach for swimming, world class mountain biking trails, fishing off the town bridge and yummy eats, all surrounded by beautiful first nation’s art & carvings.

Whitehorse – the hub of the Yukon

Whitehorse is the capital city of the Yukon and where the majority of the services and people are located. It has many hotels and campgrounds (both territorial & commercial) to meet a broad range of budgets.

For the more active minded, the best way to see the area is by bike and canoe. We recommend Boreale Explorers for guided bike, canoe and hiking tours of the Whitehorse area. If you want to rent equipment yourself then stop by Icycle Sports for bikes and UpNorth Adventures for canoes/kayaks. Whitehorse was recognized as the top mountain biking destination by Outside Magazine in 2013.

Other fun stops on the living history tour are the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site and Canyon City Historic Site.

Haines Junction/Kluane National Park:

Haines Junction is the entry point to Kluane National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is home of Mount Logan – Canada’s highest peak. The visitors centre is very educational and well worth the stop for all ages. Kluane can be enjoyed from the ground but is best appreciated on foot through one of the many trails in the park.

Dawson City:

The heart of the gold rush, Dawson City comes alive in the summer time (June 1st – end of August). There are numerous festivals and a plethora of historic sites to be toured. From the dirt streets and wooden sidewalks, you can’t help but be transported back in time. If you have time, take a side trip up the Demster Highway to Tombstone Territorial Park for some rustic wandering.

Going above and beyond:

Epic trips that really allow you to experience the splendour of the Yukon are:

  • Canoe the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City (7-10 days)
  • Explore any river in the Peel Watershed and see some of the most pristine wilderness in the world (10-15 days)
  • Drive the Dempster Highway up to Inuvik (or Tuktoyaktuk when the road is finished) and then head to the Arctic Ocean
  • Raft the Tatshenshini-Alsek River and be in awe of the glaciers & landscape

Home Schooling connections:

The Yukon was home to a number of key historic figures over the past 100 years. They provide a lot of pre and post learning opportunities:

At 483,450 square kilometres (186,661 square miles), the Yukon is larger than California and covers more area than Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands combined. It represents 4.8% of Canada’s total land area. That’s a lot to explore so be sure to give yourself lots of time!

Manatee do-over brings success!

manatee 1With all of the recent cool weather, one of the upsides is that the manatees have travelled from the ocean to the inland springs in search of warmer water. We figured we would go and check it out since we were back in the neighbourhood!

hunter snorkeling with manatees

Tim, Hunter and Grandma Liz headed out to the Weeki Wachee River (I am benched at home due to bruised ribs due to EPIC crash on Friday) on Monday. It is a short paddle up from a small park and you reach a deep water hole where the water is significantly warmer. It was somewhat busy with 4-5 other kayaks around and the sun was shining so it was lots of fun to swim and hang out with them…

Today they drove up to Crystal Springs to check out the manatee population there. It was a bit more crazy with respect to other people (aka tourists) in search the elusive manatee. It was also a bit chillier, with cool winds and a momentary thunderstorm!

With all those people the water was fairly stirred up so visibility was much lower.

manatees CR1hunter snorkeling CRAfter our first strike out, it was great to get to see these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. They are just so gentle and peaceful to watch!

In search of manatees in central Florida

hunter tim swimming platform2

 

Last year we came to visit Grandpa Bob and Grandma Liz at their place in central Florida for an early Christmas. Grandpa took us out canoeing to some local spots to check out the Manatees and it was a HIT. Over 3 outings, we probably saw and experienced over 100 Manatees. With that memory in mind, we were all very excited to come back this year!!

The two local hot spots are the Weeki Wachee springs and the Crystal River springs. When the ocean and air temps start to cool down in the winter, the manatees head inland to these springs as they are a constant 72f.

the gang with canoe crystal river

Unfortunately for us this year, the air temps are warm (sitting up in the 80s during the day and only dropping down to the high 60s at night) so the manatees are staying out in the ocean. We got lucky and found this mom and baby headed out towards the ocean as we were leaving Crystal River Springs.

manatees beside boat

We took 2 trips to the Weeki Wachee as it is only about 20 minutes away. We park down stream at Rogers park and then paddle up the river about 45 minutes. With no manatees to be found, we decided to make the most of the hot weather and enjoyed the rustic swimming park features…

Our total Manatee count this year was 3 – a definite drop!!! We felt we should at least get a token photo to remember our canoe adventures by 🙂

family manatee photo